Taking Up That Cross

Matthew 16:24-28
24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Now we come to Jesus oft quoted verse about "taking up your cross". It's a tough concept and one that is frequently used to justify negative experiences in a person's life or to try and make someone feel good as they walk through a struggle. Both of these are probably a misapplication of the verse. Once again, I lean on the wisdom and knowledge of Dr. Gibbs Commentary. His definition of what stands in the way of our obedience to this call is helpful. It is a lengthy quote, but well worth the time.

Sometimes, the ". . . disciple [strives] to personally appropriate the insistence that God work in humanly powerful ways, so that the disciple desires to exercise power over others, especially over fellow disciples, so that he can accomplish what he believes should be done. Living in each disciple is the dark conviction that can destroy unity and do untold damage to the cause and name of Christ: “put me in charge, and I’ll set things aright.” This conviction can take the form of ambition, a disguise considered good, even in the church. It readily sprouts forth as criticism, competition, and one-upmanship. Quiet, prideful comparison in which one doesn’t actually do anything, but merely demeans a brother or sister, is the way that the more introverted sinners might choose to worship Lord Self and to think 'the things of men' over against 'the things of God.' Ambition, comparison, and criticism are all ways of embracing and exalting oneself, rather than denying oneself. The way of Jesus, however, is the way of humble obedience and submission to the will of Another. When first confronted by the voice of Satan (4:1–11), Jesus set aside his own power (4:3–4) as well as the presumption that his Father’s powerful provision would rescue him from reckless independence (4:5–7). Instead, Jesus chose the way of service and obedience and suffering for the sake of Israel and the world. Now he calls every disciple—every Christian—to look at the darkness within, at the desire for power over others, and to deny that desire whenever and wherever it shows itself. If any of us wants to come after him, let us deny ourselves!
(c)2006 J. Gibbs. Concordia Commentary Series: Matthew. p. 842. CPH.

Put in proper perspective, we find that taking up our cross is not about our own personal suffering (for Christ already did that for us) but instead it is about living humbly before other and The Lord. These words are written down here with the full realization that this is easier said than done. But the Holy Spirit can enable humble attitudes and actions in each of His people.